"The key to the success of both industries is the presence of a sound and flexible regulatory environment in which both yachts and helicopters can coexist and interact smoothly".
Aviation and Shipping are very often perceived as separate and
distinct industries with very few elements in common. In reality
synergies created between aviation and shipping are numerous.
Tangible applications can be found either within the military
industry with the development of aircraft carriers or the carriage
of persons on board helicopters to remote areas in the open seas
where vessels or oil rigs are located.
Satisfying super-yacht owners has never been an easy task. Requests vary from the number of Michelin stars on board to the availability of the most advanced "toys" which are able to entertain guests on board such as inflatable slides, jet skis, seabobs etc. The yacht building industry has welcomed such synergies as exemplified by superyachts built in order to welcome helicopter operations on board their decks.
Helicopters form a niche area within the aviation industry offering a flexible solution in terms of connectivity having capabilities beyond those of other aircrafts. Helicopters have the ability to take off or land without a run way and, ease of mobility in the air, including flying backwards or sideways or hover without moving.
Helicopters allow guests to get on board straightaway from the airport by hopping onto the helicopter without the yacht being necessarily berthed, thus saving time on port operations, or allowing a guest to get on board while the yacht is at a cruising distance. VIPs also see this as an added tool in their hands in order to maximise their privacy concerns.
As helicopters fall within the definition of an aircraft, they also benefit from the regulatory benefits which are applicable to airplanes.
In fact, helicopters which are type certified for the transportation of at least five persons or goods in excess of 450 kg have been included under the definition of aircraft objects in the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment – The Cape Town Convention. As a result of the inclusivity with the Cape Town Convention, transacting parties may benefit from greater confidence and peace of mind as a result of the protection granted through the Convention to creditors.
Helicopters also form part of the aviation cluster in Malta, and may therefore benefit from the extensive investment which the Government of Malta has made for the industry. Spurring from the growth of maritime registration, Maltese transport authorities are in tune with the needs of the aviation industry. It is for this reason that the Cape Town Convention was introduced into the Maltese Aircraft Registration Act in 2010.
The presence of a helicopter on board a yacht does not, however, come without challenges. From an engineering point of view one must note that not any helicopter can land aboard a yacht (in view of size, propellers width as well as power and weight limitations); use of helicopters aboard yachts create also a number of legal challenges connected in particular with the coexistence of two different means of transport regulated by separate sets of rules. Contrary to aircrafts, yachts are mostly regulated by maritime-related laws. The registries on which mortgages are registered are very often kept by two different authorities. Complexities increase when both modes of transport are registered in different jurisdictions thus flying flags of different jurisdictions, often acquired during different stages, with their own duty/VAT importation implications.
Also, in terms of social security, rules governing payment of seafarers' contributions differ from the ones of helicopter crew members. Is the pilot of the helicopter to be considered as a yacht staff member during the period of time spent onboard or as a passenger?
Suffice it to say that, in all cases, accurate planning from the early stages of yacht building, including the choice of flag, country of importation of both the yacht and helicopter, nationality of crew members on board, is key to a smooth and seamless enjoyment of both the yacht and helicopter. It is therefore always advisable to seek professional advice as early as possible and certainly ahead of acquisition in order to maximise the potential offered by the ever-growing synergy between maritime and aviation industries.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.